CAROL: Is there a part of your life in Glory Be? If so, how did you incorporate it into your story?
AUGUSTA: There is so much of my life in this story. The two sisters are (very loosely) based on my sister and me . But she’s not really like Glory as much as I’m like the bossy older sister, Jesslyn!
Some of the history is part of me. Glory Be takes place during 1964, Freedom Summer. Like Glory, I lived in a small town in the Mississippi Delta most of my life, so I was there. My friends and I were very innocent about what was going on around us. Maybe that’s why I wanted to give Glory a little spirit, even a “cause” to fight for. It was hard to write the parts that dealt with hatred and meanness, but so many young readers don’t know a lot about the Civil Rights Movement, about Freedom Summer, and this is a story told from a young girl’s point of view about a situation that could have happened.
CAROL: Can you tell me some of the "story behind the story"? Where did the idea come from, how many forms did it take before you realized it was a novel?
AUGUSTA: Glory Be actually started life as a short story for adults, titled Junk Poker. It took place during the summer, when the sisters (like my sister and I) played a forbidden game of Blackjack while they were supposed to be resting from the heat. I wrote that 10 years ago. The maid was originally a wedding planner. Quickly I realized I was telling a story for middle grade readers, and the wedding planner left the story.
CAROL: How many revisions did you go through?
AUGUSTA: More than I can count! I wrote the bare bones of a middle grade historical during a terrific workshop class at The New School in New York eight years ago. It’s had a lot of revisions!
In the year before my agent accepted me (after she’d told me she loved the story but it wasn’t quite ready for subbing), it went through three big revisions- two on my own and a last look with freelance editor extraordinaire, Joyce Sweeney. I didn’t make a lot of significant changes in the characters or the setting, or the basic plot. But I had to kill off a couple of my favorites things. I’ve saved them for for another story.
CAROL: Do you have an agent?
AUGUSTA: I found my agent at the Maryland SCBWI conference. I met her when she critiqued the beginning chapters of a different MS of mine. She liked it and asked to see it all. After what seemed like an eternity, she said it wasn’t ready. The next summer, I returned to that same weekend conference. I took Glory Be to be critiqued by a different agent. He liked it. But first I sent it to Agent #1, as an exclusive. Turns out she loves middle grade, is a fan of historical fiction, and even lived in the South and married a southerner! So she got it. Her name is Linda Pratt, and we have become good friends and have a great professional connection.
CAROL: Can you share any tips on writing/publishing?
AUGUSTA: Read everything in your genre that you can get your hands on. The hot-off-the-press stuff, the Newbery winners, the kids’ favorites. I had a distinct advantage, having been a school librarian for 20 years. When I left that profession to write, a friend had started a website about the South: USA Deepsouth. This was pre-blogging, and really almost before there were many websites like it. I offered to write book reviews of books about the South. That mushroomed into writing for other publications. I know that helped.
Then just as I was getting serious about the submission process, I took a one-day workshop at Media Bistro in New York, run by Joy Peskin, an editor for Viking. After the workshop, some of us sat around and talked about “how to get published.” This was 2008. A blog was suggested. I went home that night and started blogging about books and writing. I think that gave me an online presence so that my to-be agent and anybody she subbed to could find me easily. That sounds so obvious now with Facebook and all the other connections writers make.
CAROL: What's next? Are you working on a second book?
AUGUSTA: Am I ever. The same book Linda said wasn’t ready in 2009 still isn’t ready! But it’s getting closer. It’s another middle grade. Kind of historical, in that it’s set in 1974. I actually have another teensy idea for a third book, set in Mississippi. Also in the past. Teensy idea in that I know the characters’ names and a little bit about them. I’m hoping they’ll soon tell me their story. That would help, wouldn’t it?
Thank you, Augusta, for sharing your journey with us. I wish you much success in this debut novel and next time you have a party and celebrate with a Glory Be cake...I want a piece!
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